Design Managers


Our client appointed one and the PA likes to joke that the guy's job is to tell architects what to do. What frustrates me is this is not some seasoned old man but a rather young fellow with an architectural background of 8-10 years and yet makes more money doing this job as opposed to an architect of similar experience.

My question is:

What is a design manager? Have you ever worked with one? What do they do and why do we need them? How come they earn more than we do? How can a 35 year old man manage a design team comprised of senior and principal architects?

Sep 23, 17 5:10 pm

Sounds like the longstanding position of client representative has been given to someone with an "architectural background" as you describe it.

This is helpful or a hindrance, depending upon (i) which camp you're in, (ii) how qualified the person is, and (iii) his/her style and personality.

But client representatives are standard-issue personnel, whether operating under that specific title or not.

Sep 23, 17 5:35 pm

BTW, the client rep is the point person on the client's side in larger projects. This is a desirable arrangement, since the big, big boss is not someone you usually want to deal with on a regular basis. Designating someone with design education and experience for this role can make a lot of sense, again depending on i, ii, and iii above.


Sometimes they are only 25. You might be blessed.

Sep 23, 17 6:43 pm

A friend works as a 'graduate design manager' at a large consultancy with less than 2 years experience and yet earns more money than I do at a starchitect's practice. I guess it was his good manners that got him the job and I wonder if that's all it takes to keep it.

I've found the client Rep to be helpful most of the time. If for nothing else that they understand design speak, plans/elevations, and code requirements when presented. It's a big hurdle trying to convey necessary code things to someone with no architectural background who finds such things frivolous. The client Rep gets this and spends their time explaining all this to the business people with the money so that we - architects of design/record - can focus on delivering the product/drawings which must meet code regardless if the client thinks code should be adhered to.
Sep 23, 17 7:13 pm

Most of my projects have a "design manager" aka client rep. They all vary in ability to understand the design/construction process, reading drawings, etc., The most successful client reps are often ones with architectural backgrounds of some sort, even if it's just that they've been a client rep for 10 years. It can be really helpful to us as designers because that one person can be in charge of gathering consensus (especially when the governing body is a board of some sort) and conveying that to us in architectural terms. They act as a kind of translator. We spend more time designing/producing than going back and forth with a board of fickle people who don't understand how much they're costing themselves both in money and time by changing their minds. 

Sep 23, 17 10:18 pm

He listens to you so the client doesn't have to

Sep 23, 17 11:07 pm

I've worked with a few.  

One kind; this client owned higher end apartment buildings nationally.  So... he basically oversaw the various architectural firms to insure the brand image, regional flavor, and general aesthetics fit with their target market at that location so they could hit their target rates.  As I understand it, they had a lot of problems with architects.    

Another kind was a national brand; Porsche.  So they oversaw the corporate branding worldwide and reviewed the drawings to insure the overall brand image didn't get tainted (since franchise owners like to cut corners and would build something cheap if left up to them alone).

The last kind was within the firm.  Basically he was in charge of the overall design direction of the firm and reviewing all the designs in the office.  Just picture a mean professor critiquing your studio work. 

And yes... they all make more than normal architects and may or may not even be licensed.  They'll usually be mid to upper managers in their world; realestate or large corporations... and paid like management in those realms.  Also, all of them were good and understood the entire design and construction process; what they added was a deep understanding of the image the corporations wanted and how those corporations operate.

It is actually a good thing.  It's alot easier to work with someone who understands and has gone through the building process a few dozen times than it is to handhold a client who flat out doesn't understand anything about construction or the process.

Sep 24, 17 2:49 am

Oh no, yet another job that pays better than architect, and they can tell us what to do...goddamnit!

Sep 24, 17 5:50 am

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